A preferred energy source for a wide selection of mobile phones, toys, laptops, and other
consumer goods, lithium batteries can pose a safety risk when not properly prepared for air
shipping. A laptop computer that runs on lithium ion batteries, for example, must follow
HAZMAT guidelines when being shipped.
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), most people are not aware that
lithium batteries are dangerous goods that can pose a safety risk if not prepared in accordance
with the transport regulations. As of May 2017, the Federal Aviation Authority has recorded
160 air/airport incidents involving lithium batteries that were either carried as cargo or in
passenger baggage since March 20, 1991.
“Lithium batteries continue to be a hot topic for a lot of shippers that don’t necessarily
understand the implications and rules behind the shipment of products that use these
batteries,” says Benno Forster, Head of Airfreight USA for Schenker, Inc. He offers this list of dos
and don’ts to companies that need guidance in this area:
DO determine in advance whether the products you’re shipping include lithium
batteries. An everyday laptop computer may seem innocuous enough, but in reality it
may include batteries that must follow strict guidelines before being shipped via
DON’T overlook passenger and/or airline safety. Shipments that are placed on
passenger aircraft carrying international cargo could potentially impact the aircraft
itself, its passengers, and/or the other cargo being transported.
DO work with an experienced logistics partner can also help. DB Schenker, for example,
offers a program that specifically addresses the challenges of transporting hazardous
materials. Using the program, shippers can generate the necessary dangerous goods
documentation; validate interior and exterior packaging and labeling; and ensure that
the shipments are properly marked for transport.
DON’T assume all airlines follow the same rules. Forster says one of the biggest issues
shippers of lithium batteries encounter is the fact that not all of them use the same
rules and regulations regarding such shipments. “There are a lot of differences among
the airlines, with some being much stricter than others,” says Forster. Those airlines that
have encountered problems when shipping lithium batteries, for example, may have
more stringent rules around those products’ transport. “Airlines as a whole are being
pretty cautious about this matter, so it’s something that shippers should be aware of
and paying attention to.”
DO educate yourself on the rules and regulations. IATA has published a guidance
document based on the provisions set out in the 2017-2018 Edition of the ICAO
Technical Instruction for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air (Technical
Instructions) and the 58th Edition of the IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations (DGR).
According to IATA, the provisions of the DGR with respect to lithium batteries may also
be found in the IATA lithium Battery Shipping Guidelines (LBSG). In addition to the
content from the DGR, the LBSG also has additional classification flowcharts and
detailed packing and documentation examples for lithium batteries.
DON’T wait until it’s too late. Forster advises shippers to make sure they have the right
declarations ready—a great proactive step that will help your logistics provider check
with the various airlines to see which ones will (or won’t) take the shipment. “There are
many different types of lithium batteries, and many rules surrounding their transport via
air,” says Forster. “The best way to get out in front of the issue and ensure a smooth
process is by telling us in advance that you’re shipping lithium batteries and giving us
time to find the best possible option for your particular shipment.”
In conclusion, in the interest of safety, understand whether your shipments include lithium
batteries, know the rules and regulations, and plan accordingly with plenty of time.